Changing Places
Enabling dynamic, evolving places that respond to the complexities of life.
The Changing Places group proposes that fundamentally new strategies must be found for creating the places where people live/work, and the mobility systems that connect them, in order to meet the profound challenges of the future. We are investigating how new models for urban architecture and personal vehicles can be more responsive to the unique needs and values of individuals though the application of disentangled systems and smart customization. We are developing technology to understand and respond to human activity, environmental conditions, and market dynamics. We are interested in finding optimal combinations of automated systems, just-in-time information for personal control, and interfaces to persuade people to adopt sustainable behaviors.

Research Projects

  • Andorra Living Lab

    Kent Larson, Luis A. Alonso Pastor, Alex (Sandy) Pentland, Ira Winder, Nai Chun Chen, Yan Leng, Alejandro Noriega Campero, Agnis Stibe, Michael Chia-liang Lin, Carson Smuts, Ariel Noyman, Yan Zhang (Ryan), Jason Nawyn, Juanita Devis, Nuria Macías, Yasushi

    This is a unique collaborative project between the Media Lab and Andorra's government, largest public and private companies (e.g., energy and telecom), and academic institutions. The overarching paradigm of our work is the application of data science methodologies and spatial analysis on Andorra's big data, with the goal of enabling an understanding of the country's dynamics on tourism and commerce, human mobility and transportation systems, and energy and environmental impact; as well as to shed light on technological and systems innovation toward radical improvements in these domains. Goals include helping to develop big data platforms for understanding, utilizing, and leveraging big data; developing concepts that have the potential to establish Andorra as an international center for innovation; and designing interventions that can improve the experience of tourists, encouraging them to visit more often, stay longer, and increase spending.

  • ARkits: Architectural Robotics Kits

    Kent Larson, Hasier Larrea, Carlos Rubio, Luis Alberto Alonso Pastor and Ivan Fernandez

    In an urbanized world, where space is too valuable to be static and unresponsive, ARkits provide a robotic kit of parts to empower real estate developers, furniture manufacturers, architects, and "space makers" in general, to create a new generation of transformable and intelligent spaces.

  • BoxLab

    Kent Larson and Jason Nawyn
    Designed as a platform to enable rich contextual data collection in real homes, BoxLab uses a broad array of wireless sensing devices to study responsive applications situated in natural home settings. BoxLab has been deployed in homes around the Boston area, and has generated a dataset containing over 10,000 hours of sensor data to be used as training libraries for computational activity recognition and other applications of artificial intelligence. BoxLab also enables rapid deployment of context-triggered applications that allow systems to respond to occupant activities in real time.
  • CityHOME: 200 SQ FT

    Kent Larson, Hasier Larrea, Daniel Goodman, Oier Ariño, Phillip Ewing

    Live large in 200 square feet! An all-in-one disentangled robotic furniture piece makes it possible to live comfortably in a tiny footprint—not only by magically reconfiguring the space, but also by serving as a platform for technology integration and experience augmentation. Two hundred square feet has never seemed so large.

  • CityOffice

    Kent Larson, Hasier Larrea, Luis Alonso, Carlos Rubio

    Architectural robotics enable a hyper-efficient, dynamically reconfigurable co-working space that accommodates a wide range of activities in a small area.

  • CityScope BostonBRT

    Ryan Chin, Allenza Michel, Ariel Noyman, Jeffrey Rosenblum, Anson Stewart, Phil Tinn, Ira Winder, Chris Zegras

    CityScope is working with the Barr Foundation of Boston to develop a tangible-interactive participatory environment for planning bus rapid transit (BRT).

  • CityScope Hamburg

    Kent Larson, Ariel Noyman and J. Ira Winder

    MIT CityScience is working with Hafencity University to develop CityScope for the neighborhood of Rothenburgsort in Hamburg, Germany. The goal is to create an interactive stakeholder engagement tool that also serves as the platform for joint research of modules for city simulation. Researchers are developing modules for walkability, neighborhood connectivity, energy efficiency, and economic activity, among others.

  • CityScope Mark I: Real-Time Data Observatory

    Ira Winder, Mohammad Hadhrawi, Carson Smuts, and Kent Larson

    Real-time geospatial data is visualized on an exhibition-scale 3D city model. The model is built of LEGO bricks, and visualization is performed by an array of calibrated projectors. Through computation, GIS data is "LEGO-tized" to create a LEGO abstraction of existing urban areas. Data layers include mobility systems, land use, social media, business activity, windflow simulations, and more.

  • CityScope Mark II: Scout

    Ira Winder

    The CityScope "Scout" prototype integrates augmented reality with real-time mathematical modeling of geospatial systems. In practice, the technology transforms any tabletop into a canvas for land-use planning and walkability optimization. Users perform rapid prototyping with LEGO bricks and receive real-time simulation and evaluation feedback.

  • CityScope Mark III: Dynamic 3D

    Ira Winder, Grady Sain

    The Dynamic 3D prototype allows users to edit a digital model by moving physical 3D abstractions of building typologies. Movements are automatically detected, scanned, and digitized so as to generate inputs for computational analysis. 3D information is also projected back onto the model to give the user feedback while edits are made.

  • CityScope Mark IV: Playground

    Ira Winder and Ariel Noyman (SA+P)

    Playground is a full-sized, tangible 3D environment for rapid prototyping of building interventions in Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Through projection mapping and onscreen displays, users can receive feedback about the impacts of their interventions.

  • CityScope Mark IVa: Riyadh

    Ira Winder

    We recently led a workshop in Saudi Arabia, with staff from the Riyadh Development Authority, to test a new version of our CityScope platform. With only an hour to work, four teams of five professionals competed to develop a redevelopment proposal for a neighborhood near the city center. The platform evaluated their designs according to energy, daylighting, and walkability.

  • CityScope Mark IVb: Land Use/Transportation

    Kent Larson, Carson Smuts and Ira Winder

    CityScope MarkIVb is programmed to demonstrate and model the relationship between land use (live and work), population density, parking supply and demand, and traffic congestion.

  • Context-Aware Dynamic Lighting

    Ronan Lonergan, Shaun Salzberg, Harrison Hall, and Kent Larson

    The robotic façade is conceived as a mass-customizable module that combines solar control, heating, cooling, ventilation, and other functions to serve an urban apartment. It attaches to the building "chassis" with standardized power, data, and mechanical attachments to simplify field installation and dramatically increase energy performance. The design makes use of an articulating mirror to direct shafts of sunlight to precise points in the apartment interior. Tiny, low-cost, easily installed wireless sensors and activity recognition algorithms allow occupants to use a mobile phone interface to map activities of daily living to personalized sunlight positions. We are also developing strategies to control LED luminaires to turn off, dim, or tune the lighting to more energy-efficient spectra in response to the location, activities, and paths of the occupants.

  • Creative Cities

    Kent Larson, Mohammad Hadhrawi and Yu-Ann Wang

    It's the 21st century and new cities are being built and old cities are being renovated to accommodate global population growth and urbanization. By 2009, more people in the world lived in cities than rural settings. This number will double by 2050 to three billion. Historically, people have felt ambivalence towards cities: while cities have been the wellspring of ideas, the cornerstone of the industrial revolution, and centers of economic improvement, they've also been the source of socioeconomic inequality, congestion, and crime. Inspired by several pieces of literature, we wanted to explore cities in a positive light and see what elements in a city could be related with higher levels of innovation.

  • Hybrid Autonomous Shared Bike Fleet Deployment Simulator

    Phil Tinn, Michael Lin and Kent Larson

    Cities around the world are striving to improve livability by way of reducing dependency on fossil-fuels cars. How might we leverage the autonomous technology to help fulfill this vision, while ensuring the flow of people and goods across the city? The Persuasive Electric Vehicle (PEV) is a small, on-demand, shared, agile, autonomous, and functionally hybrid tricycle. We believe it will become a critical platform in the constellation of emerging mobility systems. The PEV will be a shared bike platform for people's inner-urban and last-mile travel needs, and for delivering goods on-demand around the clock. To deploy it in the real world, it is necessary to match the fleet supply with its demand. This simulator enables cities around the world to forecast the fleet size based on proxy demands from taxis, shared bikes, shared car services, and Call Detail Records (CDR).

  • Measuring Urban Innovation

    Talia Kaufmann, Kent Larson, Dan Harple and Victor Kashirin

    Cities are hubs for innovation, characterized by densely populated areas where people and firms cluster together, share resources, and collaborate. In turn, dense cities show higher rates of economic growth and viability. Yet, the specific places innovation occurs in urban areas, and what the socioeconomic conditions are that encourage it, are still elusive for both researches and policymakers. Understanding the social and spatial settings that enable innovation to accrue will equip policymakers and developers with the metrics to promote and sustain innovation in cities. This research will measure the attributes of innovation districts across the US in terms of their land-use configurations and population characteristics and behaviors. These measurements will be used to identify the factors that enable innovation, with the goal of developing a methodological approach for producing quantitative planning guidelines to support decision-making processes.

  • Mobility on Demand Systems

    Kent Larson, Ryan C.C. Chin, Chih-Chao Chuang, William Lark, Jr., Brandon Phillip Martin-Anderson and SiZhi Zhou
    Mobility on Demand (MoD) systems are fleets of lightweight electric vehicles at strategically distributed electrical charging stations throughout a city. MoD systems solve the "first and last mile" problem of public transit, providing mobility between transit station and home/workplace. Users swipe a membership card at the MoD station and drive a vehicle to any other station (one-way rental). The Vélib' system of 20,000+ shared bicycles in Paris is the largest and most popular one-way rental system in the world. MoD systems incorporate intelligent fleet management through sensor networks, pattern recognition, and dynamic pricing, and the benefits of Smart Grid technologies include intelligent electrical charging (including rapid charging), vehicle-to-grid (V2G), and surplus energy storage for renewable power generation and peak sharing for the local utility. We have designed three MoD vehicles: CityCar, RoboScooter, and GreenWheel bicycle. (Continuing the vision of William J. Mitchell.)
  • Persuasive Cities

    Agnis Stibe and Kent Larson

    Persuasive Cities research is aimed at advancing urban spaces to facilitate societal changes. According to social science research, any well-designed environment can become a strong influencer of what people think and do. There is an endlessly dynamic interaction between a person, a particular behavior, and a specific environment. Persuasive Cities research leverages this knowledge to engineer persuasive environments and interventions for altering human behavior on a societal level. This research is focused on socially engaging environments for supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, reshaping routines and behavioral patterns in urban spaces, deploying intelligent outdoor sensing for shifting mobility modes, enhancing environmentally friendly behaviors through social norms, introducing interactive public feedback channels to alter attitudes at scale, engaging residents through socially influencing systems, exploring methods for designing persuasive neighborhoods, and fostering adoption of novel urban systems. More:

  • Persuasive Electric Vehicle

    Kent Larson, Michael Lin and Agnis Stibe

    Persuasive Electric Vehicle (PEV) addresses sedentary lifestyles, provides energy-efficient mobility, and takes advantage of existing bicycle lanes. Designed as a three-wheeler for stability, with a cover to protect from rain and the option for electric assist, PEV makes biking compelling for various demographics. Various persuasive interventions are displayed through user interaction with smartphones to facilitate pedaling behavior. Influential strategies are designed for both the interior and exterior of PEV. For example, an interior display can show how many previous riders have actually pedaled while riding a particular PEV. The exterior of PEV can change color depending on whether a rider actually pedals or not.

  • Persuasive Urban Mobility

    Agnis Stibe, Matthias Wunsch, Alexandra Millonig, Chengzhen Dai, Stefan Seer, Katja Schechtner, Ryan C. C. Chin and Kent Larson

    The effects of global climate change, in combination with rapid urbanization, have forced cities to seek low-energy and less carbon-intensive modes of transport. Cities have adopted policies like congestion pricing to encourage its citizens to give up private automobiles and to use mass transit or bicycling and walking. In this research study, we examine how persuasion technologies can be utilized to encourage positive modal shifts in mobility behavior in cities. We are particularly interested in studying the key persuasive strategies that enable, motivate, and trigger users to shift from high-energy to low-energy modes. This project is a collaboration between the MIT Media Lab and the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT).

  • ViewCube

    Kent Larson and Carson Smuts

    A tangible device for real-time spatial movement and perspectival orientation between physical and digital 3D models.